LIANE HANSEN, Host:
Jesse Jenkins joins us from the University of California at Berkeley. Welcome to the program.
M: Thanks. It's a pleasure to join you.
HANSEN: The Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents brought construction of nuclear plants to a standstill. What makes the Fukushima accident different?
M: In a country like Japan, with essentially no domestic fossil fuel reserves - they have no oil, natural gas or coal in any abundant quantities - and so they turn to nuclear power.
HANSEN: Are there any concerns at all about the safety of nuclear plants in those and other developing countries?
M: And China, in particular, is already building hydropower, renewable energy technologies, like wind and solar as quickly as possible, and yet still plans to significantly scale up their supply of nuclear power within the latest five-year plan, which was recently adopted.
HANSEN: President Obama supports nuclear power as a necessary component of a green economy. How will Fukushima affect the future of nuclear power in the U.S.?
M: The reality is that only a few plants are moving forward at this point - only a couple in Georgia, maybe one or two in Texas. And this may make that number diminish somewhat. But in the long term, the future of nuclear power really hinges on whether or not the industry can develop plants that can be built faster, can be built cheaper, and can be operated more safely.
HANSEN: And how do you achieve that?
M: Well, there are a number of new designs that have been proposed in recent years. And the challenge has been moving those forward from the drawing papers to actual operation. And if there is a future for nuclear power in the United States at this point, the Fukushima crisis may require an accelerated effort to prove those designs, test the materials and operation of those units, and to get them through the licensing process at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which ensures the safety of our nuclear power fleet in the United States.
HANSEN: Jesse Jenkins is director of Energy and Climate Policy at the Breakthrough Institute. He joined us from the studios of the Journalism School at the University of California at Berkeley. Thank you.
M: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.